Janice Williams

Archive for September, 2013|Monthly archive page

Tombstone Tuesday: Bernard Cunningham

In Gravestones, Photos, Second generation, Tombstone Tuesday, William Henry, World War I on September 30, 2013 at 11:47 pm

Our first 2 tombstones for Tombstone Tuesday were in the cemetery that is nearest and dearest to me as a Cunningham, the Newburg Cemetery. But today we’ll move 30 miles west to a cemetery you may never have been to. It’s the Old I.O.O.F. Cemetery in Hamilton and the grave of Bernard Cunningham.

This is one of the prettiest gravestones I have seen in our family:


This is the east side of the gravestone. The west side is the side that you’ll see first if you are driving through the cemetery looking for it. It is hard to miss:


And this is a close-up of the name and dates.


Now, who is Bernard Cunningham? I have many pictures and stories about Bernard Cunningham. But the shortest version is that he was the son of Tom and Lona Cunningham and Bernard was killed in World War I. Tom, Bernard’s father, was the oldest son of Bill Cunningham of the original 12 Cunningham “kids.” Bill Cunningham raised his family very close to the Mountain Creek Ranch.

Tom married Lona, who was born in Alabama, but lived with her family in Hamilton County. She was 20 and he was 18 when they married. He was the first child in the Bill Cunningham family to marry, though his older sister Mollie wasn’t far behind.

Tom and Lona had their first child, Edna, about a year into their marriage. This was an era when the Cunningham family was still relatively small. Small in terms of where it ended up 100 years later, of course. Betty had quite a few grandchildren by 1890 since she was the first in the family to marry, Aaron had a few, and there were a few others, but I would expect that the birth of a grandchild would still get a little bit of notice in the family. The birth of little Edna prompted the Bill Cunningham family to have another formal family portrait taken.


That is Tom and Lona on the right and the baby in the picture is little Edna. [If you need a better copy of this picture with full IDs, just write me.]

This whole story has so many sad aspects and the first is that little Edna died before she was 6 years old. I don’t know the cause. She is buried in the Pottsville Cemetery in Hamilton County. Lona was pregnant with Bernard when Edna died. Bernard was born 4 months later in February 1896.

As you can imagine after having gone through a tragedy and losing a child, Bernard was especially dear to Tom and Lona. He was also a much-photographed boy.


When Bernard was 20, he married Annie Cathey of Hamilton.


But things get sad here again…  The couple moved to Fort Worth and before they had been married 2 full years, Annie got pneumonia and died. Heartbroken, Bernard moved back home to Hamilton and soon after enlisted in World War I.

To Be Continued…


Tombstone Tuesday: George’s Wife Eliza

In George Washington Cunningham, Gravestones, Original 12 Cunninghams, Tombstone Tuesday on September 24, 2013 at 12:50 am

I have discovered I can’t take a straight picture for the life of me. Thank goodness editing software now let’s me straighten all these crooked photos. But this is one photo where I am quite certain it is the tombstone that is crooked, not just me and my camera:


This is the grave of Eliza Cunningham in the Newburg Cemetery. If you are getting your bearings, this photo was taken facing to the east and you see the grave of William (Bill) Cunningham back there with the flag and the Texas Ranger cross. Capt. James and Susannah are just to the right of that, out of the picture frame.

Eliza Cunningham was the wife of the youngest son in the family, George Washington Cunningham. They married on July 4, 1878, when he was 20 and she was 18. She was also a native of the Newburg Community so they had probably grown up around one another and she likely was friends with Mary Jane and Unity.

George and Eliza settled near Priddy before it was Mills County and farmed. When Mills County was formed, he became the first sheriff, in 1887 at just 29 years old, following in his brothers’ and brother-in-law’s footsteps as a sheriff.

By the time he became sheriff, Eliza had had 3 children. In his role as sheriff, the family moved into the downstairs of the jail on the Goldthwaite courthouse square.

She may have been pregnant with their youngest child, Dave, when they were moving into the jail and getting settled. But there was no rest for Eliza. Part of her job as the sheriff’s wife was to prepare meals and feed prisoners in the jail, too.

Sadly, when she was only 30 years old and her children were all under 11, the youngest, Dave, only 2, Eliza died and was buried at the Newburg Cemetery. Both Capt. James and Susannah were still alive, as were all the 11 brothers and sisters of the Cunningham family, so you would assume they would have all been by this grave for her service in late August 1890.

Interestingly, Aaron, Dave, and Joe had all lost their wives before Eliza died, but each of their wives are buried in the Albin Cemetery. Richard and Luticia had buried their 18-year-old firstborn son in Newburg, but the cemetery didn’t have the large number of family plots we associate with it now.

Now, of course, Eliza is surrounded by a great number of our Cunningham relatives.

George married Kate Danley McCall a year later and took in her son Will McCall. Together they had 4 children. They moved to San Angelo and he became the chief of police there and they and many of their children are buried there. Kate McCall was not a widow, but I will save that story until I know more about it.

Tombstone Tuesday: Captain James Cunningham

In Capt. James Cunningham, Gravestones, Newburg Cemetery, Texas Rangers, Tombstone Tuesday on September 17, 2013 at 12:09 am

I expect that most of the people that come to this page have seen this gravestone time and time again. It is a centerpiece in the Newburg Cemetery in Newburg, Texas, the home of the Texas Cunninghams beginning in 1855.

But then, someone may be lucky enough to stumble across this blog and this page only to discover what a wonderful heritage they come from.

This is maybe my favorite picture of Captain James Cunningham’s grave. It was taken by my go-to (and favorite) photographer, Mark Hays, my husband. This was taken at the Ranger dedication ceremony in August of 2009. I have a full page of the story of that great day. The Former Texas Rangers Association honored Capt. James along with 5 of his sons and a grandson for their service as Texas Rangers. The small metal crosses were placed by their graves and covered with the Cunningham family tartan until the unveiling.

reunion 097

The photo is of little Yancy, 7 years old, admiring the grave of his g-g-g-g-grandfather and decked out in his own gun belt and boots, just like the Texas Rangers guarding the frontier wore. I love his look of respect.

Yancy comes from the Tom line of the Cunningham family, via Tom’s 6th daughter, 7th child, Mary Houston Cunningham Perkins, who is also buried in the Newburg Cemetery along with her husband Charlie and  her son Eugene, Yancy’s great-grandfather. Yancy’s grandfather, Harold, is a recent past president of the reunion. Yancy is 11 now. I have enjoyed watching him grow up and look forward to his active involvement as a leader in the family. It won’t be long.

Tombstone Tuesday: The Leg of J.R. Lewis

In Original 12 Cunninghams, Tombstone Tuesday, Unity Ann Lewis on September 10, 2013 at 12:19 am

There are so many things to write about that don’t get written, so in an effort to put some of my information out here for you, I will attempt to at least write about one of our ancestors or relatives by highlighting their gravestone on Tuesdays.

Of course, it has taken me 30 minutes to CHOOSE which one to put here first! Sure, I wanted to start with the graves of Susannah and James Cunningham, the top of the pyramid. Then I thought, we’ve all been to Newburg over and over, maybe start with a grave you haven’t seen. Finally I have stopped the churning thoughts by starting with…

The Leg of J.R. Lewis.

I’ve talked to many of my Cunningham kin – and others who have visited our Newburg Cemetery – and the grave of the leg of J.R. Lewis is a highlight of a visit. If you were lucky enough to have discovered this unique grave as a kid, it probably stuck with you for years.


I would like to give you THE definitive story of J.R. Lewis’ leg, but I don’t know the story definitively. The story I have heard is that he lost his leg in a wagon accident. Why he chose to have his leg buried in the cemetery, I do not know. You descendants of Unity and J.R…. do you know?

This J.R. Lewis is James Russell Lewis, the husband of James and Susannah Cunningham’s youngest daughter Unity Ann.

J.R. was born in DeKalb County, Alabama, November 28, 1858.  This was the same county that the Cunninghams had moved from about 15 years earlier.  He was almost 20 when he married Unity on November 7, 1878, in Comanche County. She was almost 16.

They lived some of their married life near Priddy where he farmed, but then they lived in Brownwood to give their children better educational opportunities. His death certificate says he was a merchant as well as a farmer.

He and Unity had 4 sons and 2 daughters that lived past infancy. Many of our reunion attendees are their descendants:  Willis, Lockridge, Henson, Whittley, Ellis, Landa, and many more names are “Lewis” up the line.

J.R. died September 22, 1951, in Bangs, Texas.  He had been living there with his son Jim and Jim’s wife Pearl.

I don’t have many pictures of the Lewises. Voncille Whittley was kind enough to give me some group photos of the family. Here are J.R. and Unity at their 50th anniversary party in 1928. Impossible to tell which leg is the one buried in Newburg.


James Rector Burton

In Aaron, General Musings, Photos, Second generation, World War I on September 3, 2013 at 1:02 am

I stumble upon many things that surprise me and make me happy when I’m researching the family. Most of what I am doing right now is just trying to find official confirmation for the birth and death dates that we have and add place locations to those births. There are many more government records online than there ever have been, so I’m just adding sources to information that has just been given to us by family members.

But I stumble upon things. Like the fact that James Rector Burton was a schoolteacher at Austin High School. I use the website findagrave.com frequently and I found where a girl named “fluttergirl” had added this picture of James Rector Burton to the picture of his grave from the Oakwood Cemetery.


She says in her comments that this is from the 1935 Austin High School yearbook where “Mr. Burton” was teaching Spanish and drama.

I’m sure there are AHS yearbooks at the Austin History Center here in Austin. I will have to go see if there are other pictures.

Now, who is he? There are several men with the name “James Rector” in our family. In the Aaron Cunningham family, James Rector Cunningham fought in World War I and was killed overseas. His death prompted other people in our family to name their children James Rector.

This James Rector Burton, this schoolteacher, is not actually a blood descendant of the Cunninghams. But his mother, Willie Pearl Henson, was just a toddler when her father died and her mother, Amanda Jane Henson, married Aaron Cunningham. Aaron Cunningham was the only father that Willie Pearl Henson ever knew and James Rector Cunningham, the fifth child born to Aaron and Amanda, was Willie’s baby brother, born when she was just 10 years old. She named her son John Rector Burton after her baby brother when her baby brother was only 14 years old. John Rector Burton was named for his uncle before his uncle was a war hero.

This James Rector Burton served in World War II (after he was a schoolteacher at AHS). He continued to be a schoolteacher and I assume he taught in Comanche because he died in Comanche in 1969.

What is also amazing to me as I find these stories and they seem to be from so long ago… I look at the connections and figure out how he fit into the family and realize that his younger sister is Linda Rippetoe. She is an active member of the Comanche community and a frequent guest of our reunion. She was there last month with us. Linda may be in her 90s now, but she is as vital and engaged as she can be. Now I want to go to her and find out more about John Rector Burton, her brother, and know the stories her mother told about growing up with Aaron Cunningham.